Last time, I exhausted you with all of the reasons why utilizing an agent has been a good thing for us and why you should consider using one yourself. Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Agents don’t know it all. Agents don’t generally have the time to know it all. At least not for every deal they work. Here we go…
Did you know that property records are available to you? Many counties have online assessor records that you can search to see what taxes are for a particular property (helpful for calculating monthly payments – stay tuned for the next post about financing and money) and sometimes you can even see the property sales history (also available on websites like Zillow.) A note: you usually have to click through to some kind of map or property explorer, then search by address. Does this tell you everything? No. But, depending on what the market is like in your area, it can give you an idea of how long someone has been there and what the property sold for previously. It gives a place to start for comparison and the actual value of the property. Keep in mind, as I mentioned, this does not always provide pertinent details (such as liens against a property.)
Another source is the county foreclosure listings. You can see if the house was foreclosed upon – also something an agent can provide – either in the current transaction, or perhaps previously. Sometimes, there is an NED (Notice of Election and Demand for Sale) available in the foreclosure records, even if the house hasn’t been foreclosed upon – meaning the owners have somehow resolved the discrepancy. This can give you valuable information about the current value of a note on a house (can you say, “bargaining power?”) and may tell you if a seller is highly motivated – and therefore may accept a lower offer if you come in as a strong buyer (being pre-approved, no contingency, short closing date, etc.) as long as your offer is still above what they may owe.
Additional information can be found on real estate websites and the like, simply by searching using the actual address of the property. Websites may pop up that contain previous listings for a property – you may get additional photos, previous uses and more. I’ve also found that when looking through pictures on Zillow, you can find older (and more) pictures by clicking to enlarge the photos (this is what hours of researching houses will find you – just saying – an accidental click here, being curious there…)
I’ve learned just as much about a property by doing my own research as I have communicating with an agent. Additional insight is invaluable and I’ve appreciated knowing whatever I’ve found. Have any more thoughts and suggestions? Feel free to post below. Good luck!